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Canned Food

An Introduction
Changing lifestyles and modified eating habits of growing urban population have propelled the growth of the canned food industry. The food processing industry has a huge market now – of middle class people who are willing to buy processed food because they have the money and they don’t have the time to make something at home. It is a demand driven industry. Canned foods that can be heated and served instantly have become the norm in a regular middle class kitchen, where earlier it took several hours to put meals together. This has meant to a surge in the demand for canned food products.

Canning process not only cooks the food inside the cans but also locks in the nutrients inside the can. Canned foods are therefore nutritious and can count towards a balanced healthy diet. Another favorable aspect of canned foods is that they are amazingly convenient and can be easily stored in the kitchen ready-to-eat whenever one wants to. Thus canned food helps to make lives easier.

 

Canning
Canning is a technique of food preservation by which the food is sealed in an airtight container. This helps in the prevention of ingression and proliferation of micro organisms inside. Metals are great modern ways of packaging our food items. Convenient and long lasting.

History of Canned Food
The process of canning was invented in the late 18th century in France when the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, anxious about keeping his armies well-fed, announced a cash award of 12,000 Francs to whoever could develop a cheap and effective method of preserving large amounts of food. It was Nicholas Appert who conceived the idea of preserving food in bottles, like wine. His innovation was based on his observation that food cooked inside a jar did not spoil unless the seals leak, thus developed a method of sealing food inside glass jars. The reason why food did not spoil was unknown at the time, since it would be another 50 years before Louis Pasteur demonstrated the role of microbes in food spoilage. However, glass containers presented challenges for transportation.

An Englishman, Peter Durand, took the process one step farther and developed a method of sealing food into unbreakable tin containers. Cans are both cheaper and quicker to make and much more resilient than fragile glass jars. Glass jars have, however, remained popular for some high-value products and in home canning. The first commercial canning factory was established in England by Bryan Dorkin and John Hall in 1813.

Initially, the canning process was slow and labour-intensive, as each can had to be hand-made and took up to six hours to cook properly, making tinned food too expensive for ordinary people to buy. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, tinned food became a status symbol amongst middle-class households in Europe, becoming something of a frivolous novelty. Increasing mechanization of the canning process, coupled with a huge increase in urban populations across Europe, resulted in a rising demand for tinned food.

A number of inventions and improvements followed, and by the 1860s, the time to cook food in sealed cans had been reduced from around six hours to only thirty minutes. Canned food also began to spread beyond Europe - Thomas Kensett, who emigrated to the United States, established the first U.S. canning facility for oysters, meats, fruits and vegetables in New York.

Large-scale wars in the nineteenth century, such as the Crimean War, American Civil War, and Franco-Prussian War introduced increasing numbers of working-class men to tinned food, and allowed canning companies to expand their businesses to meet military demands for non-perishable food, allowing companies to manufacture in bulk and sell to wider civilian markets after wars ended. During the two world-wars canned foods are supposed to have satisfied the nutritional and dietary requirements of the soldiers.

 

Canning Process
The harvest season for the canned food products industry means fruits and vegetables being being picked at the peak of ripeness and packed into a can within hours. The amount of time needed for processing is different for each food, depending on the food's acidity, density and ability to transfer heat. Processing conditions are chosen to be the minimum needed to ensure that foods are commercially sterile, but retain the greatest flavor and nutrition. Once the cans are sealed and heat processed, the food maintains its high eating quality for more than two years and is safe to eat as long as the container is not damaged in any way. And, like the home canning process, no preservatives are added or necessary.

The sequence of steps in the canning process differs with the product.
Fruits and vegetables may be peeled or pitted, and have stems removed prior to canning. Some vegetables receive a heat treatment before they are placed in the can to remove air and improve packing.
Acid juices, like orange and tomato, and acid vegetables, such as sauerkraut, can be sterilized before they are placed into containers.
Seafood is usually packed after being boned or shelled, with the exception of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, or even salmon, which have bones that are softened by heating. Meats and fish, like tuna, are usually cooked to soften the flesh before canning, separated from bones, compacted and placed in cans with appropriate liquid.

One significant difference in the modern canning process is that today's cans are made of 100% recyclable steel.

Once picked up from the farms, the fruits and vegetables are then washed under fast jets of water, peeled, trimmed, cored and sliced then pured into empty cans moving quickly along the conveyor belt. The appropriate liquid water, syrup, fruit juice or whatever is appropriate - is then poured in to fill the can.

The lid is sealed onto the can, which is tested for air-tightness before being sent swiftly off for the most important process the cooking. Cooking is the crux of the canning process. The closed cans are stacked in large cookers that heat them up at right temperature under right pressure for the kind food being cooked. Since the can has been sealed before the heating stage so if any micro organisms if at all present, are definitely killed during the heating process. This means that the food will remain fresh till the can is opened. When the cans have cooled the cans are labeled and sent to the warehouses, from where the retailer and from there finally to the home the consumer.

 

Nutritional Value
Since canned food is processed, packed at the peak of harvest, it also is packed at its nutrient peak. As foods age, they begin to shed some of their essential nutrients. Fruits and vegetables especially have the highest nutrient content when they are ripest.

In many instances, nutritionally speaking, canned food is comparable to its cooked fresh and frozen counterparts. Plus, it's available year round so it can easily be used in favorite and new-to-you dishes for a convenient and flavorful meal any time of day. According to a market study and other recent research into food nutrition aspect the canning process actually helps to enhance the nutrient profile of certain foods. For example the following:-

  • Canned Pumpkin contains 54% of the Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin A, while the same amount of fresh pumpkin has only 26%.
  • Canned Beans have higher fiber content
  • Canned Tomatoes contain significantly higher quantities of lycopene, an essential phytochemical, than fresh tomatoes.
  • The fiber in many convenient canned fruits and vegetables may even help lower the risks of heart disease and some types of cancer
 

Varieties Of Canned Food
Virtually any food that is harvested or processed can be found in a can. Today's canned food provides a variety of options. For those consumers who are more sensitive to sodium, many canned products are available in low-salt and no-salt alternatives

Shelf Life of Canned Food
Many canned products now have a "for best quality use by" date stamped on the top or bottom of the can. 'Expiration' dates are rarely found on canned food.

However, canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing. Canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture.

In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75° Fahrenheit and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still micro-biologically safe in terms of human consumption.

 
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